Gies College of Business and the University of Illinois were among the top schools represented in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2020, which recognizes innovators under the age of 30 across 20 industries who are “changing the world forever.”
Overall, the University of Illinois placed the tenth-most honorees on this year’s Forbes list, ranking second in the nation among public universities. iVenture Accelerator Director Manu Edakara; leaders from iVenture-supported startups MakerGirl, Cast21, and Optivolt Labs; and a number of Gies alumni received this year’s coveted honor.
“Illinois alums account for more people on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists for 2020 than any other college or university in the Big 10, the state of Illinois, or any other state in the country between California and Pennsylvania,” said John Quarton, senior director of innovation and entrepreneurship programs at Gies College of Business. “That screams volumes about the quality of people who have pursued a college education at Illinois and the exceptional work of our faculty and staff to prepare them to be leaders for the innovation economy.”
Manu Edakara, 27, is an associate director in the Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and plays a leading role in managing the iVenture Accelerator, which supports student-led startups with knowledge, funding, and access to world-class University of Illinois resources and alumni. iVenture, which is open to all University of Illinois students, is powered by Gies College of Business and has helped entrepreneurs raise millions of dollars, create dozens of full-time jobs, and participate in prestigious programs such as Y-Combinator, TechStars, and the Hax Accelerator.
“Gies is fundamentally changing the way students think about career and life,” said Edakara. “We’re leading by challenging students to think about purpose – and at the iVenture Accelerator, one of many programs within the Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, run by my colleagues John Quarton, Professor Noah Isserman, and Valeri Werpetinski, we work closely with student entrepreneurs to figure out their purpose. Whether it’s building a full-time venture or working in another satisfying career, we support the growth of individual student leaders by teaching through venturing.”
MakerGirl co-founders Elizabeth Engele, 26, and Julia Haried, 26, were honored for their work in bridging the STEM gender gap, especially with girls from 7-10 years of age. Haried (ACCY ‘15, MAS ‘16) and Engele (BA ‘15) got the idea for MakerGirl from a social entrepreneurship class through the University of Illinois’ School of Social Work, and since then they have held 3D printing sessions for nearly 4,000 girls across 22 states. They have also established academies at six universities and taken the #MakerGirlGoesMobile campaign across the country to reach rural communities. The organization’s goal is to educate 10,000 girls by 2023 through the leadership of their executive director, Mary Hadley.
“It is a true honor to be named Forbes 30 Under 30 and a privilege to make a difference with young people and their families across the United States,” Haried said. “Girls living and dreaming as unstoppable forces that say ‘YES!’ to the challenges of tomorrow is what lights up my life and makes me excited every day.”
“It is a major privilege to be recognized in this list of esteemed leaders,” said Engele, who also completed the Hoeft Technology & Management Program, a joint minor between Gies College of Business and The Grainger College of Engineering. “Our past and future accomplishments are possible through the big dreaming and resiliency of our ChangeMaker team as well as the support of many UIUC alums and our beloved friends and family.”
In the Healthcare category, Ashley Moy, 25, and Jason Troutner, 25, were recognized for founding Cast21, a company that develops waterproof cast and brace alternatives. Cast21, which credits iVenture Accelerator, the Cozad New Venture Challenge, the IDEA Lab at the Grainger Engineering Library, and Research Park for contributing to its growth, is creating leading-edge treatment options for broken bones with a waterproof, breathable, lightweight web sleeve that hardens to the shape of the patient’s body.
Rohit Kalyanpur, founder of Optivolt Labs, received a 30 Under 30 honor in the Energy category. Optivolt Labs, which participated in the third cohort of iVenture, is developing autonomous solar charging systems that can power machines. While a student at Illinois, Kalyanpur, 22, and Optivolt won the Illini Ideas pitch competition, Harper Entrepreneurship Fund scholarship, and the Cozad New Venture Competition.
Kimberly Lewis (BA ’13) was honored by Forbes for co-founding CurlMix. Through their company, Lewis and her husband develop organic hair products designed for women with curly hair. The two even appeared on the hit show Shark Tank, turning down an offer from one of the sharks.
Andy Lee (ACCY, FIN ’10, MAS ’12), chief investment officer at Parallaxes Capital earned a Forbes 30 Under 30 nod in the Finance category. Parallaxes Capital is a leading alternative asset manager, focused on esoteric assets
“We’re immensely grateful to Forbes for recognizing the impactful work we’re doing here at Gies in collaboration with numerous partners across the University of Illinois campus, and deeply thankful for the forward-thinking support and innovative leadership Gies provides,” said Edakara.
Read more about Gies on our Partner Publisher page.